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2020 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts
Last updated: Fri, May 15
Offensive PhilosophyThe Colts had planned to run an up-tempo, pass-heavy offense in 2019 until Andrew Luck's sudden retirement forced a change. Instead, they quickly morphed into one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, finishing 5th in rush attempts and 23rd in pass attempts despite finishing the year at 7-9 and giving up more points than they scored. The Colts brought in Philip Rivers to take over for the struggling Jacoby Brissett, which in theory should allow head coach Frank Reich to run the hurry-up passing game he prefers. But while Rivers has never missed a game in his career since becoming a starter in 2006, he will turn 39 this season and has thrown nearly 8,000 career pass attempts. He has tended to come out of the gates strong early in recent seasons before seeing his production drop late in the year. With his team thinking about the playoffs and a highly-drafted rookie running back in the fold, Reich might be thinking about keeping his new reliance on the run for another year to keep his quarterback fresh.
QuarterbacksStarter: Philip Rivers
Backup(s): Jacoby Brissett, Chad Kelly Starting QB: The Colts made a move in the offseason to sign veteran quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million dollar deal. Rivers was signed to replace Jacoby Brissett, who struggled in 2019 leading the team to a disappointing 7-9 season. Head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are both familiar with Rivers from their time in San Diego. Reich was the offensive coordinator from 2013-2015 and Sirianni was the quarterback coach in 2014 and 2015. Their rapport and familiarity of Rivers was a key factor in the signing. Rivers is entering his 17th year in the league reaching heights that would welcome a Hall of Fame invite. He is 6th all time in career passing yards and passing touchdowns. He has topped 4,000 yards passing in 11 of the last 12 years, including 4,615 last season, his third-highest total of his illustrious career. Rivers brings experience to the position and knowledge of Frank Reich's offense. Some might argue that Rivers has lost some zip on his passes and that he is beginning to fade in the sunset of his career. That may be true, but a non-perfect Rivers may be a better plan of action for the Colts offense than what Jacoby Brissett provided in 2019. The supporting cast on offense is talented, especially the offensive line, which should help to keep Rivers upright in 2020. The receiving corp is anchored by T.Y. Hilton, but the Colts need to find a true WR2 to help make the passing game complete. Rivers finished 15th in 2019 and has finished 15th or higher in 13 of his 16 seasons in the league. He is projected to be a QB2 for fantasy purposes with the potential for a higher ranking if all pieces fall the right way. The ranking could go the other direction if his decline comes on faster than expected. Backup QB: The Colts are blessed with a strong backup in Jacoby Brissett, who could eventually return as the starter if Philip Rivers' decline comes on faster than expected. Brissett has started 32 games in his four-year career with a 12-20 record (7-8 in 2019). He has over 6,400 yards passing with 31 touchdown passes and 13 interception in his career with a quarterback rating of 84.6. He also has scored 9 rushing touchdowns. While his record is sub .500, he has the tools to be an effective quarterback with a range of versatility that gives him and the team options on offense. At age 27, he is entering the prime of his career. If he is brought in to replace Rivers the Colts will have a dual-threat quarterback with knowledge of the offense and a desire to improve. Most teams would be pleased to have a backup with the talent and potential of Brissett.
Running BacksStarter: Marlon Mack
Backup(s): Jonathan Taylor [R], Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
Fullback(s): Roosevelt Nix Starting RB: The Colts primary running back and leading rusher candidate for 2020 is Marlon Mack. He is coming off his first 1,000-yard season and second year in a row with at least 8 touchdowns. Mack is entering the last year of his rookie contract and the Colts have indicated that they are not pursuing an extension with the 24 year-old back from South Florida. This may give him extra incentive to perform well in a contract year giving him hope of signing a lucrative deal off the fruits of his labor. An interesting stat that shows Mack's progress is that he was one of eight players who gained 500 yards before contact and 500 yards after contact. This showcases the strength and effectiveness of the Colts offensive line, plus the tackle-breaking abilities of Mack. One strike against him from a fantasy perspective is that he is rarely utilized as a receiver or on third downs. He actually has decent success on third downs but only 18 of his 247 carries occurred on third down with one reception. Another strike against Mack is the presence of rookie running back, Jonathan Taylor, whom the Colts used a second round draft pick to select him. It is unclear if and when Taylor will usurp Mack in the backfield, but it's difficult to think that the Colts staff won't want to see a return on their investment sooner rather than later. Backup RBs: Marlon Mack is currently the Colts starting running back until proven otherwise. However, rookie draft pick, Jonathan Taylor was drafted to be the future at the position. Mack will be a free agent after the 2020 season and Indianapolis secured his replacement with their selection of Taylor. It is unclear when and if Taylor will assume a starting role, but if anything, the Colts now have a strength at running back with a capable, eager option waiting for his name to be called. The Colts also have a primary receiving back in Nyheim Hines, who could be a valuable piece in a Philip Rivers-led offense. In two years in the league, Hines has topped 44 receptions both years. At 5'9, 197 pounds, he is not built for a heavy load, but he is also not diminutive to the point where he can't function as a rusher. His forte is catching the ball, but he is capable of doing more if asked. As a rusher in 2019, Hines had 47 carries on first and second down, averaging 4.06 yards per carry with 13 first downs. Hines has fantasy appeal in PPR leagues and if his development, or an injury were to open the door for him, he could warrant a spot in your every-week fantasy lineup. Filling out the depth chart is Jordan Wilkins. He has 60 and 51 carries in his first two years respectively, averaging an impressive 5.6 and 6.0 yards per carry. The former SEC standout has performed well in his limited action and perhaps, if the situation dictates it, he can rise to the occasion in his third year in the league. Fullback: The Colts signed two-year fullback Roosevelt Nix in the offseason. He comes from Pittsburgh where he had a limited role in the offense. He was used mostly as a receiving threat out of the fullback position. It is unclear how he will be used in Frank Reich's offense, but he brings a power game to the Colts rushing attack, plus an adequate receiver out of the backfield. At this time, Nix is not expected to have much, if any, fantasy value.
Wide ReceiversStarters: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal
Backups: Michael Pittman Jr [R], Parris Campbell, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin Starting WRs: The clear #1 wide receiver on the Colts is veteran T.Y. Hilton. In seasons past, Hilton would occasionally get banged up but he would continue to play through pain, and most cases, performed well despite the injury. In seven years prior to 2019, Hilton only missed two games in a season once. Last year he wound up only playing in ten games, due to calf injury that was fairly severe. It was determined that he had a two-inch tear in his calf muscle and he still managed to come back later in 2019. He didn't amount to much in his return, but it shows the lengths he'll go to honor and respect his team and his teammates. Hilton did not need offseason surgery, and is expected to be healthy for the 2020 season. Hilton may have finished 57th among fantasy wide receivers last year, but prior to 2019, he did not finish lower than 25th and had five top 20 seasons. He is a borderline WR1 who is a consistent threat to produce decent fantasy numbers any given week. He has scored at least five touchdowns in seven of his eight seasons in the league. He established good rapport with Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett, and he is expected to do the same with Philip Rivers. It is unclear who will occupy the position opposite Hilton, but if performance is any indication, it may be Zach Pascal who emerged as a capable receiver during Hilton's on and off 2019 season. Pascal finished with 41 receptions for 607 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 and showed that he can be a reliable option in the Colts offense. Backup WRs: The Colts wide receiver depth chart received a boost with the selection of Michael Pittman Jr as the 34th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Pittman brings a good combination of size, speed, and playmaking skills to the offense. He will compete for the role opposite T.Y. Hilton and many believe he will earn that role before the beginning of the season. The Colts drafted Parris Campbell in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft to be a speed threat and elusive runner after the catch. A fractured hand, and later a broken foot, limited Campbell to seven games in his rookie season where he caught 18 passes for 127 yards with one touchdown. Campbell has big-play potential, especially after the catch. He needs to continue his development, especially increasing his route tree, but he has the talent and ability to fill a specific niche role with the team. The Colts also have Daurice Fountain who has yet to play a down after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft. He dislocated his ankle in training camp last year and was placed on injury reserve ending his season. He will need to perform well in training camp this year to see an increase in activity in 2020. Before the ankle injury he was raising eyebrows among the Colts coaching staff.
Tight EndsStarters: Jack Doyle
Backups: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Travis, Hale Hentges Eric Ebron signed with the Steelers in the offseason, opening the door for Jack Doyle to be the primary receiving tight end threat for the Colts in 2020. Doyle is entering his eighth year in the league this September. He has finished in the top 20 three times, including three of the last four seasons. Doyle was the top tight end for the Colts in 2019 in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and total snaps. The Colts added Trey Burton to fill the void left by Ebron. Frank Reich is familiar with him from his days in Philadelphia and is a welcomed addition to the 2020 roster. Burton's familiarity of Reich's offense and offensive tendencies should allow him a chance to rebound after a challenging period with Chicago. If he can stay healthy, Reich will find ways to get Burton involved. Third-year pro, Mo Allie-Cox saw an increase in playing time in 2019, but he was still the third option behind Eric Ebron. With Ebron out of the picture, Allie-Cox will see an opportunity for advancement behind Jack Doyle. Passing touchdowns were down for the Colts in 2019. They only amounted to 22 touchdowns via the pass, which led to lesser production from the tight end unit, compared to seasons past with Andrew Luck under center. There is hope that Philip Rivers will elevate the offense to more scoring opportunities. He is 6th on the all time list of passing touchdowns with 396. If he can stay ahead of father time, his presence will be a boost for all offensive numbers, especially the tight end position, where he targeted the tight end position heavily in the past with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Jack Doyle is currently projected to be a top 20 tight end, but he could venture higher if he monopolizes the position from a receiving standpoint.
Place KickerChase McLaughlin, Rodrigo Blankenhip (R): The Colts are likely going into the 2020 season without Adam Vinatieri for the first time since 2005. He hasn't officially retired, but the team appears to moving on without Vinatieri after GM Chris Ballard said he was happy with McLaughlin in January. The team signed McLaughlin to finish out the season after Vinatieri struggled. He made 5 of 6 field goal attempts including two from 50, and all 11 extra point attempts. McLaughlin also kicked for the 49ers and Chargers last year, and all in all made 18 of 23 field goal attempts and all 26 extra point attempts. The team also added one of the top kicker prospects that went undrafted, Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia. Blankenship has the leg for distance field goals and consistent touchbacks on kickoffs and he was the top kicker on many draft boards.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Nyheim Hines Running back Nyheim Hines hasn't lived up to his potential on offense, but he's become a solid fixture on special teams where he fields most of the team's punt return attempts. Punt Returners: Nyheim Hines, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell The Colts last year opted for a committee approach on kickoffs, with punt returner Nyheim Hines factoring in along with Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, RG Mark Glowinski, RT Braden Smith
Key Backups: OT LeRaven Clark, OL Danny Pinter [R], OL Javon Patterson, OL Cedrick Lang One of the league's dominant lines is led by left guard Quenton Nelson, a fixture on the All Pro first team since his rookie season. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo remains excellent, and the team extended his contract this offseason. Center Ryan Kelly has been healthy and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. The staff utilizes "fake-zone" gap scheme where everyone steps zone but a guard secretly pulls, creating a gap-power hole.
Team DefenseThe Colts outperformed all expectations last year with 41 sacks and 23 takeaways, although they finished 16th in yards and 18th in points allowed. The defense was definitely the better of the two sides of the ball and should benefit from Philip Rivers being brought in to quarterback the team. Even better, Chris Ballard traded the 13th pick of the draft for DeForest Buckner, arguably the best defensive tackle in the game not named Aaron Donald. There is ascendant young talent at every level of the defense and there's hope that Xavier Rhodes can get better in a good system for his eroding game. The fantasy community has wised up to the Colts potential rise on defense, taking them as one of the last starting units in typical leagues, which still makes them a value pick, especially in best ball leagues.
Defensive LineStarters: LDE Kemoko Turay, RDE Justin Houston, NT Grover Stewart, DT DeForest Buckner
Backups: DT/NT Denico Autry, DT/DE Tyquan Lewis, DT Rob Windsor, DE Ben Banogu Starting DL: After being a backup for the past two years, Kemoko Turay will slide into the starting lineup opposite the formidable Justin Houston. Grover Stewart returns as the starting nose tackle. The team made a big splash this offseason when they traded the 13th overall pick in the Draft to acquire DeForest Buckner from the 49ers. The 49ers were unable to keep both Arik Armstead and Buckner due to cap concerns, so they traded the more valuable of the two and extended Armstead. Buckner solidifies this front and provides interior pressure that the Colts were not getting regularly from their other interior options. Backup DL: The backup group is not large, but it does boast an experienced option in Denico Autry. He has the versatility to play multiple spots along the line in a pinch. Former second-round pick Tyquan Lewis has largely been a disappointment to the team, which may have prompted the move to bring Buckner into the fold. Lewis will need to show progress in rotational work to earn his second contract with this team. It will be interesting to see what Indianapolis decides to do with Ben Banogu this year. Last season, they nearly played him in a LEO role, a split between linebacker and defensive end responsibilities. They ultimately abandoned the plan in training camp, fearing they would put too much on the rookie's plate. We may see them return to the idea on a part-time basis now that Banogu has a year of NFL experience under his belt. Rookie pick Rob Windsor is undersized, but is agile and never seems to give up on the play. He will need to add mass to his frame to stick on the roster long-term.
LinebackersStarters: WLB Darius Leonard, MLB Anthony Walker, SLB Bobby Okereke
Backups: WLB EJ Speed, WLB Jordan Glasgow [R], MLB Zaire Franklin, SLB Matthew Adams Starting LBs: Very little has changed with the starting group, apart from Bobby Okereke breaking into the lineup at the strong-side linebacker spot. Okereke performed well when called into duty unexpectedly last year and missed only five tackles throughout the season, fourth-fewest among linebackers. Darius Leonard spent time injured last year with both a concussion and an abdominal injury. In a recent offseason chat, he told the interviewer that he loves the game and is ready to resume football activities. Anthony Walker stepped in and put up probably the best performance of his young career manning Leonard's vacant post. He logged 124 combined tackles, 84 of which were solo tackles. Backup LBs: EJ Speed was drafted last year and is an athletic linebacker who the Colts believe can play any of the three linebacker spots if called into action. After earning a couple of spot starts in 2018, Zaire Franklin did not see the field in that capacity in 2019. He and Matthew Adams remain depth into which the Colts hope they do not have to tap. Jordan Glasgow is undersized, but he shed blocks well at the college level and could immediately contribute to Indianapolis' special teams unit.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Rock Ya-Sin, SS Khari Willis, FS Malik Hooker
Backups: CB Kenny Moore, TJ Carrie, CB Isaiah Rodgers [R], SS George Odum, FS Roland Milligan, FS Julian Blackmon Starting DBs: Pierre Desir signed with the Jets in free agency, leaving newly acquired Xavier Rhodes the starting corners. Both Ya-Sin and Rhodes struggled last year and will need to bounce back if they are to keep this team's secondary viable. Unable to stay healthy, Clayton Geathers was not retained. Fortunately, the emergence of third-day draft pick Khari Willis as a quality box safety in his own right has helped ease that loss. There are rumors that the team is unhappy with Malik Hooker's inability to stay healthy and are shopping him to other teams. The fact that they did not pick up his fifth-year option lends more credence to such rumblings. Backup DBs: Kenny Moore continues to be the team's quality slot option. Quincy Wilson was traded away for a sixth-rounder in the Draft. His exit will leave some opportunity for Isaiah Rogers and TJ Carrie to compete for a primary backup spot. George Odum is an undrafted free agent who has not yet earned a start. Roland Milligan did earn a single start last year, but has been given relatively little opportunity in which to prove his ability. Julian Blackmon suffered a knee injury in December 2019 that he is still recovering from, but the Colts felt comfortable drafting him and letting him heal and develop on the back end of their roster. He could eventually have utility as a coverage safety, run support safety, or big nickel cornerback.